Museum Musings

Volunteer of the Month: March

Ellouise-Bryan.jpgWe are pleased to honor Ellouise Bryan as our March Volunteer of the Month.

Ellouise has been with Fernbank Museum since we opened on October 5, 1992! She joined us as a Greeter at Fernbank shortly after retiring from Dekalb Medical Center after thirty-one years as a nurse in the ER and ICU.

Ellouise loves working with people and especially loves to be where things are happening. In addition to volunteering as a Greeter each week, Ellouise also sings in a chorus group at a church in Rockdale county, where her late husband was a deacon. She has also volunteered with the Dekalb Convention and Visitors Bureau. Ellouise loves talking to our visitors, and one of her favorite memories from her time at Fernbank is a volunteer group trip to Charleston, NC.

For information on how to become a volunteer, call 404.929.6360 or e-mail

Written by Fernbank Museum at 16:54
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Not Your Average Day of School

As exciting as High School can be, often the routine of school, homework, sleep, repeat gets monotonous. Fortunately, our high school presents a unique opportunity twice a year to break that monotony and do something different for a month. We get to take unique classes, or take on an internship opportunity. Our something different was working as Junior Environmental Interns at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which proved to be more of an interesting experience than we had imagined.


Every day, we arrived at Fernbank at 1:30pm and didn’t waste any time getting back into the woods. It was so refreshing, even in the frigid temperatures, to breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the beauty of the overlook forest the museum has to offer. As soon as we had our gloves and bags in tow, we’d descend the earthy path down the hillside into the woods and start pulling English Ivy that covered the ground and trees alike. We learned that English Ivy, although commonly used for decoration, is actually considered an invasive species in our region of Georgia. This means that, if left uncontrolled, English Ivy could expand to cover the grounds of the forest and up through trees—strangling them—as well as, blocking sunlight and resources from ground plants. Now, don’t get us wrong, ivy is a beautiful plant, but it is definitely something that needs to be regulated for the sake of the forest. And that’s where we come in. Every day, vine by vine, we pulled the ivy off and out of the ground, freeing the soil and native plants from their pest.


From this important non-native invasive species removal, we’ve truly come to appreciate the value of environmental conservation. Not only is the environment breathtaking on a larger scale, but up close you can see the smaller thriving plants and organisms that call the forest their home. Also, this forest and many like it around us provide valuable resources we sometimes take for granted. Tree roots help prevent soil erosion and keep our world in place. Forests play a valuable role in the water cycle, without which nothing could survive. Trees, of course, provide us with oxygen in the air we breathe every day. Invertebrates in the soil help break down and recycle organic waste compounds.


The realization that by pulling ivy we could make a difference in keeping a forest healthy and functioning made doing this job everyday almost effortless. Combined with being outside in a beautiful environment, being active and doing things with our own hands, and spending time together as friends and making new friends at the museum, working at Fernbank Museum of Natural History has been an experience we will never forget.

Fernbank offers many volunteer opportunities, including restoration, throughout the year. Learn more about Fernbank’s volunteer program.

Griffin, Sandy and Sam, Junior Environmental Interns

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:38

Special Holiday Drop-in Programs

New adventures offered daily! Now through Monday, January 6, enjoy a variety of special drop-in programs led by Fernbank educators. Look for the “Today at Fernbank” sign when you arrive to for each day’s schedule. Programs offered vary each day and are subject to change. 

Scheduled programs include:*
Weekday Wonders
Enjoy a variety of hands-on learning fun!

Live Animal Encounters
Meet and learn more about a member of Fernbank’s LIVE animal collection. Animals presented vary, but may include turtles, snakes, geckos and hissing cockroaches.

Tadpole Tales**
Preschoolers can enjoy story time with a Fernbank educator, along with a special activity or song.

Excellent Experiments
Explore the amazing world of chemistry through fun experiments.

Drop-in programs are included with Museum admission and are free for members. Unless noted, all programs take place in the Naturalist Center on the Upper Level.

Don’t forget to check out the special exhibitions Marco Polo: Man & Myth and Winter Wonderland, enjoy the great outdoors indoors in Fernbank NatureQuest, or choose from two films in the IMAX® Theatre.

As always, parking is free! 

*Actual programs offered vary each day and are subject to change/cancellation at any time.
**This program is available December 28 and December 29 only.
Written by Fernbank Museum at 19:45

Salamanders are a (Nature) Girl’s Best Friend


My fall semester in the Education Department as a Life Science Programs Intern, has provided a fresh appreciation of environmental conservation. Specifically, I have loved learning and sharing about the salamanders in our collection. As a Biology major it’s second nature to recite what amphibians are; they’re cold-blooded animals with vertebrae that undergo metamorphosis and have permeable skin that is not covered by fur, scales, or hair. Easy.

As an intern, salamanders have become much more than their anatomy. Throughout this semester I’ve had the opportunity to develop and plan a Science Discovery Cart activity for guests to engage in, themed “Amphibians as Bioindicators of Environmental Health”. Environmental health is especially close to my heart because I was raised in Georgia on the Flint River, and to think of a world without this place of undisturbed nature is heartbreaking. The health of the river is very important to me, and knowing that amphibians also value and depend on it instantly connected me with them.

My favorite activity as an intern has been taking salamanders out for live animal encounters to interact with guests. “Would you like to meet Goldy?” I’d say, inviting guests of the museum to observe the earthy and odd creature that was resting motionless in her special travel container. The answer is never the same. Some children are surprisingly brave and approach me with two hands stretched wide, ready to explore the unidentified creature.

There are always three questions that come immediately upon investigation from kids: “Is it real?”, “Is it a lizard?” and “Can we touch it?” The first two questions are easy to answer, and kids take their eyes off of the animal only to watch for my responses. Yes, she’s a real animal, but Goldy isn’t the spotlight kind of critter and prefers to stay hidden, so she stays extremely still while traveling in her container. No, even though she certainly is close to the shape of a lizard, she isn’t one; Goldy is the resident representative of Spotted salamanders at Fernbank. The third question however, is a difficult answer to give when children are so eager to learn: No, salamanders shouldn’t be touched by people because of their permeable skin. They take up and lose water through their skin, and touching them could dry them out or make them sick by spreading disease. Even without being touched, the remarkable character of their skin makes salamanders effective for teaching because amphibians are particularly sensitive to pollutants in their habitats, and dependent on fresh water free of toxins from toxic waste, metals, and trash.   

Now I have realized and shared the ecological importance of amphibians not only with museum guests, but with my family, friends, and roommates!  I have loved my time as an intern because I love teaching children about the significance of environmental health, the contagious cheerfulness and enthusiasm of the children, and have loved connecting with the animals at Fernbank.

You can meet Fernbank Museum’s animal ambassadors by attending a Live Animal Encounter, typically offer on weekend afternoons and school holidays. Check the “Today at Fernbank” sign the next time you visit for program listings.

—Rachel Whitmire, Life Sciences Intern Fall 2013

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:33

2014 Sneak Peek

From extremely extraordinary mammals to a dinosaur egg hunt, Fernbank’s programming in 2013 provided a year of adventure, exploration and education for all ages.

We hope you will join us again next year as we bring you new IMAX® films, new special exhibitions, unique family events and much more! See below for a sneak peek of Fernbank’s 2014 line-up.

Please note: this list is not final and all dates and programs listed are subject to change.

Special Exhibitions

Free for Members!

Whales: Giants of the Deep
Opens February 15
Plunge into the mysterious world of these majestic creatures in this immersive exhibition.

Goosebumps: The Science of Fear
Opens September 27
Explore the universal emotion of fear in a fun, safe, hands-on environment.

Winter Wonderland
Opens November 2014
Featuring a festive holiday-inspired display and other special activities.

Films in the IMAX® Theatre

Members pay just $8 for tickets—a 40% savings!

Opens January 3
Discover the heart of the world in this NEW film.

Journey to the South Pacific
Opens January 24
Travel to the remote islands of West Papua, where life flourishes above and below the sea. 

Family and Children’s Programming

Free for Members!

Pirate Day
January 18
A swashbuckling good time for families.

Whales Opening Day Celebration
February 15
A day of family fun celebrating this new special exhibition.

Adventures in Science Day
March 23
Presented as part of the Atlanta Science Festival.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt
April 12
Fernbank’s annual springtime event for families.

Superhero Day
June 15
Because super dads (and moms) deserve a SUPER day.

Reptile Day
Encounter a variety of live reptiles.
July 12

Dinosaur Birthday Bash
August 23
You're invited to a prehistoric party celebrating the world’s largest dinosaurs.

Visit Fernbank Museum for free all year long! Museum members enjoy a variety of free or discounted opportunities. Family levels start at $120.

Additional programs to be announced including additional films in the IMAX® Theatre, Fernbank’s Summer Camp, Homeschool Days, an evening for educators, additional family events and more.

Be sure to sign up for Fernbank’s e-newsletters, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates and announcements!

Written by Fernbank Museum at 09:32
Welcome to the official blog of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!